Spending on international transfer fees over the last decade increased from $2.66 billion in 2012 to a peak of $7.35 billion in 2019, while players’ agents received $3.5 billion in commissions, a study by world governing body FIFA said.
The study said average transfer fees for players moving to a club in a different country rose steadily between 2012 and 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic strained finances and led to a drop in 2020, when $5.63 billion was spent.
In all, $48.5 billion was spent on international transfers over the past decade with the top 30 spending clubs all based in Europe.
The most spent on a player was Paris St Germain’s 222 million euros ($262.45 million) deal to bring Neymar from Barcelona in 2017.
Brazilian players were the most on the move, topping the list with over 15,000 moving between clubs in different countries.
“From 11,890 transfers conducted in 2011 to a peak of 18,079 in 2019, a total of 133,225 international transfers and loans of professional players took place,” FIFA said.
“The transfers involved 66,789 players and 8,264 clubs across 200 FIFA member associations, thus underlining football’s role in the global economy.”
English clubs spent the most in the last decade at $12.4 billion followed by Spain ($6.7 billion), Italy ($5.6 billion), Germany ($4.4 billion) and France ($4 billion).
The only non-European country in the top 10 was China, where clubs spent $1.7 billion in transfers as they tried to attract high-profile players to the Chinese Super League.
Player agents’ commissions jumped from $131.1 million in 2011 to $640.5 million in 2019, almost a five-fold increase.
Manchester City (130 incoming transfers) and Chelsea (95) topped the spending charts while Portuguese clubs Benfica and Sporting were the biggest benefactors from transfer fees.
Along with Porto, the three Portuguese sides have had a great deal of success in signing or developing young talent and selling them on at big profits, topping the list of clubs with a positive net balance from transfer fees.
City and Chelsea both had over 200 players go on loan — more than any other clubs.